ISU student interns with Indy police, expects to be on “The Shift”

October 19, 2009

When Indiana State University student Ashley Wilkinson learned she would be interning with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, she never imagined she would also be on television.

Wilkinson, a senior criminology and criminal justice major from Sullivan, interned with the state's largest police department in the homicide division last summer.

About a week before she started the internship, a show caught her attention on the Investigative Discovery channel.

"It said Indianapolis Metropolitan PD and I was like ‘No freaking way!'" she said. "That was kind of a surprise."

Then she figured, "Man, I'd better look my best when I go to work if TV cameras are going to be there."

Investigative Discovery's "The Shift" follows IMPD homicide detectives as they solve murders and bring justice to victims.

"It was really weird going around doing something with cameras all around," Wilkinson said. "It wasn't what you think of a show. It was one guy with a camera."

Unlike Hollywood, "The Shift" portrays the detectives as they look without the aid of a makeup artist or clothing expert.

"What you look like is what you're going to get shown as," she said.

Wilkinson worked closely with Lesia Moore, a homicide detective at IMPD, who is still adjusting to being on television.

"The field producers are constantly asking us what we are thinking about with every aspect of our case. I don't think we ever get comfortable with narrating our thoughts on camera, but if it makes our audience understand the investigative process then a public orator I shall be," Moore said.

Wilkinson witnessed different aspects of homicide investigations during her internship.

"We kept her very busy, and she experienced a plethora of ‘hands-on' experience in the office with interviews, case research and preparing reports," Moore said.

Wilkinson also gained field experience.

"They allowed me to go on the canvas, which was knocking on doors trying to get information. That was kind of scary because I had never been in a metro area like that with so much crime," Wilkinson said.

One day, she rode along with the Violent Crimes Unit.

"They are the ones who go out and get the bad guys. I got to wear my bulletproof vest," she said. "Then they allowed me to take one full day to go to the crime lab, where I saw everything from fingerprints to ballistics to trace evidence. It takes a lot longer to process than it does on TV. It could be a week to get something back from the crime lab."

Interns are slightly rare in the homicide division.

"I enjoyed working with Ashley because she was so eager to participate in all aspects of my investigation. I was quite impressed with her enthusiasm," Moore said. "She was an asset to everyone on our squad, and I really appreciated her contribution to my investigation."

Wilkinson explored different options at Indiana State before settling on criminology as a major.

"I started off as a lot of different majors - nursing, music therapy, you name it I probably did it," she said.

Then she joined the Army National Guard and realized she truly enjoyed the active side of the military. She and her mom also watch numerous crime shows.

"I like doing not just the active side but also the thinking side," Wilkinson said.

While some people might squirm at looking at pictures of dead people or the bodies in real life, Wilkinson had no problem with it.

"As far as seeing the dead people, a lot of people can't handle it. They started showing me pictures and saw it didn't bother me much, so they took me to an autopsy," she said.

The day of the first autopsy, though, was the day the detectives were called to out for a death.

"That day we got our first run, which was a heroin overdose. I didn't know this, but homicide, they don't just deal with people killing other people, they deal with homicide, suicide and unexplained (deaths)."

"The Shift" does not film a suicide, such as the heroin overdose.

"They want to make sure it's a homicide," Wilkinson said. "It doesn't have to be solved, but it has to be something they can follow."

While Wilkinson is excited to be on television, she is a little apprehensive.

"I'm kind of nervous to see what I'll look like on TV. They say you gain 10 pounds on TV," she said.

The second season of "The Shift" premiered on Sept. 30. Wilkinson expects to be in the episodes "Roll of the Dice," airing Wednesday (Oct. 21) at 10 p.m., and "A Body with Nothing," airing Oct. 28 at 10 p.m. The Investigative Discovery Channel is on channel 168 on TimeWarner cable in Terre Haute and channel 285 on Comcast cable in Sullivan.

Writer: Lana Schrock, Indiana State University, media relations assistant, 812-237-3773 or lschrock1@indstate.edu